This week Initiative Radio with Angela McKenzie takes another look at how the complexities associated with Prohibition have resurfaced in twenty-first century America, in the form of Nelson Rockefeller's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. Angela visits the offices of the Drug Policy Alliance to speak with Anthony Papa - an artist, writer, noted advocate against the War on Drugs and Co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. His opinion pieces about the Drug War have appeared in news sources across the country and he is a frequent lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues.
As we heard on our previous broadcast which traced the history of Prohibition and the United States Constitution, multi-billionaire John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was a staunch supporter of the 18th Amendment, which forbade the sale, manufacture and transport of alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s. Fast forward to 1973, his son Nelson Rockefeller who was New York State Governor at the time, wanted to look tough on drug crime to benefit his presidential ambitions. He signed the Rockefeller Drug Laws into existence making the penalty for selling two ounces or more of Heroin, Morphine, Opium, Cocaine or Cannabis; or possessing four ounces of more of the same substances a crime with a minimum of fifteen years to life in prison and a maximum of twenty-five years to life. Instead of improving communities through prohibition of drugs, he ended up implementing drug laws that can be viewed as racist, because they subjected first-time, non-violent offenders from mostly impoverished, minority communities to lengthy or even lifetime prison sentences. The question becomes, does prohibition really work? And if not, why did Rockefeller act on the same views that his father came to regret when the 18th Amendment was repealed by the ratification of the 21st Amendment?
Today Anthony Papa shares his personal experience of serving twelve years at Sing Sing Prison for breaking the Rockefeller Drug Laws and how discovering his artistic talent for painting while in lockup eventually led him to freedom and a life of great purpose.
Written by Associate Producer: Fatima Shabbir
Angela McKenzie is the Producer & Presenter of Initiative Radio